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Interview of Mr.Marc Darroze – Owner & Master blender – Maison Darroze for AsiaImportNews – Exclusive
Could you please tell us the story of your winery, when it was created and how it developed decades after decades ?
Our profession: Artisan Producer
The treasures that the Darroze family have been hunting out from 3 generations, this eau-de-vie from the land of Armagnac, a little secret, authentic lifeblood of the land, concentrated with aromas and flavours, of expressions and unique characters. Francis Darroze – initiated by his father Jean Darroze, famous chef from Villeneuve de Marsan – and his son Marc, roam the estates on the best terroirs, that of the Bas Armagnac and its tawny sands, to select, cultivate and bottle the most beautiful discoveries.
Around forty estates contribute to this extraordinary collection that complete and perfect their ageing in the Roquefort cellars. Rare and ancient barrels, where the eaux-de-vies leave the alambic from a small property, distilled by a reputed mobile distiller and that demand several decades of subtle and careful ageing in oak barrels for 15 to 50 years in order to express the qualities of the place and the vintage. In all cases, the Darroze principles – rarely applied to a negotiant – stay the same: to respect totally, in complicity with the proprietor, the true terroir of each vineyard and to see that each and every eau-de-vie achieves its most perfect expression. To preserve the specificities, not to blend different domaines, neither vintages. In order to not betray the typical qualities, no ‘reduction’ by the addition of ‘petites eaux’ that not only dilutes the alcoholic strength but also the aromatic intensity and the hints of terroir. Therefore, each Bas-Armagnac is strictly itself, with the name of the estate of origin, its vintage and the bottling date that gives its real age as eau-de-vie no longer ages in bottles. The collection of the Darroze house offers a true voyage of taste over the infinite variations of terroirs, of varieties and of ‘savoir-faire’.
What sort of wines are you producing ?
« The Unique Collection »
At present we have in our ageing storage cellars more than 30 different estates located in various parts of Bas-Armagnac.
All age in their own vats. They will never be mixed, and will retain their initial character all the way to your glass. At present we offer 45 different vintages from the beginning of the century to today. In the Armagnac region, when it is decided to sell a product under its original vintage, the law imposes a minimum ageing period of 10 years in oak vats. The desired balance between flavor, tannin and alcohol is in fact reached after 15 years.
Our entire stock of Bas-Armagnac is kept in wood barrels. Only upon receipt of orders we bottle them. This prolongs the ageing process as much as possible. Once bottled, unlike wine, Armagnac no longer ages. This is so for all spirits. For that reason we always show the date of bottling, which gives the true age of the Armagnac.
On this « unique Collection », our creed is simple and clear :
- We refuse to blend our Armagnacs together even two casks from the same Domaine, which could diminish, even eliminate all the characteristics of the soil, the climate and the varietals. each Bas-Armagnac we offer is different, and we respect the work of the vinegrower by putting the name of the estate on the bottle.
- We refuse to blend together different vintages. Each year gives Armagnac different characteristics. This is why we reproduce the originalvintage so as to keep the diversity of products of the region at a maximum.
- We refuse to add water to our spirits to reduce the degree of alcohol. By diluting Armagnac with water (a perfectly legitimate practice) one also dilutes the potential flavour and erases the differences between one soil and another. One remove all the impact of the earth on the product. One removes the interest from the Armagnac.
LES GRANDS ASSEMBLAGES
For several generations, the Darroze family has scoured Gascony in the Grands Crus centre of the Bas Armagnac region. Thousands of centuries old treasures are held in stock at the Darroze house. This diversity in the crus, the years, the grape varieties and the styles has allowed Marc Darroze to work on this range known as « Les Grands Assemblages » (The Great Blends). Chosen for their complementary characteristics, the selected armagnacs in each blend are different ages. Each age on the bottle indicates the age of the youngest Armagnac in the blend.
A varied aromatic palette
The fruity aromas in the younger blends, with flavours of chocolate and coffee for the older eaux de vie, changing to notes of spices and candied fruits around 30 years old; the aromatic palette evolves naturally over the years.
You can discover this evolution in each blend. Many years of ageing in 400 litre oak barrels have given the oiliness and roundness to the tannins so that each « Grand Assemblage » reveals its own proper balance between the alcohol, the aromas and the tannins.
Grand Assemblage « 8 year old »
This blend with very little wood influence, displays a predominance of fruity aromas, along with a variety of other flavours, including prunes, candied orange zest and quince to name but a few. A straight armagnac that is highly strung but nevertheless, smooth and enveloping. You can drink this armagnac as an aperitif, with or without ice.
Grand Assemblage « 12 year old »
After 10 years in contact with the oak, Armagnac starts to take on the aromas of ageing. The fruit that is still present, is accompanied by the first aromas of soft spices such as liquorice and cinnamon. Still quite fiery, this eau de vie will become more complex after a few minutes breathing in your glass.
Grand Assemblage « 20 year old »
20 years old, the prime of life. This Armagnac is full of life and displays a lovely character. Already the alcohol is tamed, the tannins more refined and the aromas take shape. It is certainly the most wonderful age for the Armagnac enthusiast who appreciates the force and the maturity.
Grand Assemblage « 30 year old »
Maturity begins at 30. The fresh fruit is transformed into dried and candied fruit, the spicy character asserts itself, the first aromas of « rancio » appear and the alcohol is perfectly mellow. The fiery youth softens and relents. This Grand Assemblage is the perfect example of magnificent balance that one finds in eaux de vie of this age.
Grand Assemblage « 40 year old »
At 40 years, the Armagnac’s style is definitely apparent. The quality of the oak used is very important, as the right use of a quality barrel will bring complexity and finesse to the Armagnac; elements that can be judged and appreciated after 40 years in contact with the wood.
Grand Assemblage « 50 year old »
The age of reason. According to the freshness and the balance of Armagnacs of this age, it is sometimes time, at the end of 50 years to stop the barrel ageing. However, the use of barrels that have been exhausted of their tannins over many years in contact with the eau de vie is still possible. The aromas of chocolate, leather and roasted notes are characteristic of these very old eaux de vie.
Grand Assemblage « 60 year old »
Eternal … An Armagnac of 60 years old is eternal. It is rare to find an eau de vie that continues to express such character after so many years. This blend is the result of a long and delicate selection that has allowed us to preserve only those Armagnacs that have travelled through time without one single wrinkle.
How important are your export distribution compared to national distribution ?
60% export & 40 % domestic market.
What sort of distributors are your customers ?
Restaurants, wine shops and liquor stores, private customers and collectors
Why your products are different from others in your area ?
VALUES AUTHENTICITY• Traditional Armagnacs – no use of sugars, tannins, caramels to accelerate ageing• Traceability thanks to our Unique collection of 30 properties (highlighting the terroirs, vintages, grape varieties, date of bottling, detailed information on each armagnac). RESPECT• Producers – partnership for many years with the same producers with mutual pride and fidelity.• Products – no use of sugars, tannins, caramels• Distributors, customers – Strong mutual loyalty with our importers, distributors, sales representatives and customers in France and abroad.• Employees – our family business allows everyone to get to know each other, listen to each other and respect each other. INDEPENDENCE· Our company remains independent and is not part of a financial or luxury group. We maintain our financial autonomy, make our own choices and are free to develop our strategy as we see fit. PLEASURE/ENJOYMENT· Pleasure/Enjoyment is the keyword in our work· Pleasure given to our customers through our armagnacs/ The enjoyment of our clients when experiencing our Armagnacs· Pleasure through the diversity and the different characteristics of our Armagnacs/The enjoyment procured through the diversity……
· Pleasure working with gastronomy, catering with whom we share this goal/ The enjoyment of working with the fine dining sector, with whom we share this goal.
Do you produce grapes in a organic or environmental friendly method, or with general methods ?
We do have some of over producers organic certified.
Are your wines already distributed in Asia, and if not what are the countries you are looking for new distributors ?
Yes, Japan, China, Taiwan, Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore.
We do not have exclusivity and we are look-king for distributors in the entire Asia.
Is there anything who want to add about your wines, story or any news ?
VISIONARTISAN OF EXCELLENCELEADER · To be a leader in the world market of high-end/top of the range Armagnac· Thanks to a network of importers and distributors of high quality wines and spirits in France and throughout the world.
Thank you Mr.Marc Darroze – Owner & Master blender – Maison Darroze for your time and answers!
Maison Darroze: www.darroze-armagnacs.com
A taste you will never forget!